Genre: Sci-Fi Adventure Running Time: 2 hrs. 15 min.
Release Date: May 25th, 2018 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Ron Howard Actors: Alden Ehrenreich, Joonas Suotamo, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover, Thandie Newton, Paul Bettany, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Jon Favreau, Linda Hunt
s major crime syndicates battle amongst each other over power and resources, the downtrodden lower class of Corellia struggles to make ends meet. Many are forced to scrounge and pilfer for local gangsters in an endless cycle of servitude and sin. Two such vagabonds are Han (Alden Ehrenreich) and Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke), young lovers who dream of one day escaping their life of pillaging for ruthless underworld boss Lady Proxima (Linda Hunt). When Han double-crosses the slimy overlord by stealing a canister of valuable hyperfuel, the duo spies an opportunity to flee their grievous homeworld. But a tragic twist of fate separates the two, stranding Qi’ra on Corellia and finding Han enlisting in the Imperial military. Intending on staying just long enough to accrue the resources necessary to find his way back home, Han soon sees the years slip by as he’s compelled to aid the Galactic Empire in countless subjugations of alien planets. When he encounters cocky smuggler Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson) and his band of thieves during one such invasion, the impetuous scoundrel embarks on a reckless adventure across the galaxy in a desperate bid to reunite with his lost love.
For anyone curious about how a sidekick – significant as he may be – came to become a sidekick, “Solo: A Star Wars Story” fills in the details on one of the Rebellion’s leading second-in-commands. But it never quite elaborates upon all the places it should. As many might have guessed, he started off as an Oliver Twist of sorts, learning the tricks of the trade to become a formidable, scruffy-looking nerf herder. Oddly, this film doesn’t actually start at the beginning of Han’s endeavors; instead, he’s already very much the Han Solo of the original films, just younger in appearance and missing the Millennium Falcon. He’s still wisecracking in the face of certain doom, handy with a blaster, and he can get out of tight jams with a great deal of luck.
The filmmakers have gone to great lengths to replicate a universe that feels familiar (as was done in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”), since Han’s tales aren’t too far removed from 1977’s introductory epic (it also draws a parallel to “Rogue One” with L3-37 [Phoebe Waller-Bridge], who provides the majority of the comic relief). Recognizable droids, vehicles, spaceships, and the beginnings of the Empire turn up, while references to his later exploits also appear regularly, including costumes, combat maneuvers, his home planet, a Kessel run, and all the iconic components of his legendary freighter. Visual nods are copious, though the visual effects tend to be a touch dark and grainy – and when computer graphics are utilized, they’re a bit clumsy. Practical replicas and prosthetics are better, as are locations/environments that still look highly-detailed and filled with new alien species and villains aplenty.
Death and destruction also assault the screen, but the pacing is so breakneck that there’s barely a moment for any of the characters – let alone the audience – to catch their breaths (or to mourn). As the picture lurches from one set piece into the next, the gravity of every situation has no time to weigh on the personas; like wounds that never slow down the heroes, there’s little impact when someone’s role abruptly comes to a close. Conversely, a couple of sequences of gambling lack suspense, as the fictional card game of sabacc plays out onscreen like James Bond’s matches of baccarat, which few viewers will be able to accurately follow.
But perhaps the most disappointing aspect of this latest “Star Wars” episode is the always dependable assemblage of coincidences – the most flagrant of which is Qi’ra’s sordid past, which finds her miraculously reunited with Han (in a galaxy that must be as small as it is far, far away). Equally head-scratching is that they never manage to discuss the extremely unlikely circumstances that brought them back together. Meanwhile, Solo himself has a three-year gap in his timeline, in which a wealth of things happened during training with the Imperial Navy, though viewers don’t get to see – or hear – anything about that; and even Lando possesses a history that practically doesn’t exist in the context of this film. Qi’ra’s unseen story is infuriating enough that it overtakes the annoying yet commonplace serialization of these chapters, which ensures that no single movie is complete; every “Star Wars” entry is just a piece of a much bigger puzzle.
“Do not improvise!” Like a never-ending video game, mission after mission is introduced, giving the protagonists continuous obstacles to overcome – taking the conflicts well beyond the conclusion of this film. Since the predicaments are generated spontaneously, it’s no wonder that escape plans and triple-crosses are also improvised on the fly, creating easy ways to solve deadly impasses. There are a few surprises (and a number of not-so-surprising outcomes) and entertainment to be found with the further adventures of a beloved rogue, but as the picture draws to its finish, it doesn’t feel as if anything terribly meaningful has taken place. It’s just a collection of action sequences involving reimagined versions of the most famous space opera’s enduring heroes.
– The Massie Twins